The 2014 Book Superlatives

I have, from time to time, considered the possibility of writing book reviews on this blog. For one reason or another, I generally resist the impulse. (More often than not, I decide that I frankly just don’t have the time.) But I’ve grown to love my yearly superlatives as a system for reviewing what I’ve read. It’s an entertaining way for me to analyze what’s working for me in a story; also, what isn’t working for me in a story, and what elements stick with me over the course of a year.

If you’re new to my superlatives, these are the rules: any book I read for the first time this year (or read again after a very, very long time) is up for consideration. I don’t care even a little about when it was actually written. Superlatives you might find herein are things like Best Opening, Book I Wish I Could Fall Into For At Least a Day, and Worst Plot Contrivance. I also have a Best Quote award, which is always the hardest to pick, so there may or may not be a ridiculously long list of honorable mentions.

I will do my very best to keep any Big Time Spoiler Awards in the Big Time Spoiler Section. Once you’re there, though, you should probably read with caution.

With that in mind, here we go!

FAVORITE OPENING

we have always lived in the castle

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.” – We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House is Shirley Jackson’s most well-known and beloved work (well, other than “The Lottery”), but I found that I connected much more to We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was weird and funny and surprisingly sweet — in a deeply macabre sort of way, which is obviously the best way. This opening paragraph quickly set the tone of the story and immediately nailed Merricat’s singular voice. I instantly fell in love with it.

That being said . . .

Honorable Mentions: “124 was spiteful. Full of baby’s venom.” – Beloved – Toni Morrison

MOST OVERUSED WORD OR PHRASE

we have always lived in the castle

“I was chilled” – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I don’t remember how often this was said in the novel, but it was too much. WAY too much. Please no one ever say this again.

FAVORITE FEMALE HEROINE

shining girls

Kirby – The Shining Girls

I really enjoyed The Shining Girls quite a bit, and I thought Kirby was a fantastic protagonist. She’s spunky and clever, and her trauma — while an important part of who she is — isn’t the only thing that defines her as a character. I very much enjoyed reading from her point of view and would happily take more heroines like her.

Honorable Mentions: The Golem (The Golem & the Jinni); Denver (Beloved); Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons); Eleanor (Eleanor & Park)

BEST EXAMPLE OF AN AUTHOR TURNING A STORY ON ITS HEAD

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The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom – Christopher Healy

This book (which also wins FAVORITE MIDDLE GRADE/YA) is cute and hilarious and just what I needed to read at the time. While the anachronistic jokes occasionally grated on my nerves, I loved how cleverly this middle grade book played with various fairy tale tropes. Looking at these stories from the princes’ points of view was actually really enjoyable, and the novel never did what I feared it might do: damsel or otherwise completely ignore all of the princesses. (Ella, in particular, was pretty awesome.)

I was delighted to discover that The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was the first book in a series. I fully expect to continue on with the next two.

Honorable Mention: The Daughter of Time – Josephine Tey

BOOK I WOULD MOST LIKE TO SEE TURNED INTO A MOVIE

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The Daughter of Time – Josephine Tey

To be more accurate, this is the book I’d most like to see PBS take on in a Masterpiece Mystery! TV Movie. And honestly, it surprises me a bit — fantasies, by and large, tend to win this category for me, and this novel has nary a fantastical element in sight. But I do love my mysteries, and this is such a unique take on the genre: a laid-up detective begins investigating a historical case: did King Richard III actually murder his nephews?

I also feel like a movie (TV or otherwise) could deal with one of my larger criticisms of the novel, namely that some of the conversations between the detective and the researcher who’s helping him become a bit dull and repetitive over time. I think this could easily be improved by casting someone to play Richard III — I think we should get reenactments based on our heroes’ evolving conception of him. It would allow the audience to see something other than a hospital room, and it could also be a fascinating character study, seeing the same actor play multiple versions of the same man, depending on what text you’re referring to.

Honorable Mentions: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent; The Poisoner’s Handbook; The Shining Girls; The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

MOST CHALLENGING READ

all beautiful sinners

All the Beautiful Sinners — Stephen Graham Jones

See, this is where coming up with my more negative superlatives comes around to bite me in the ass. I like the hell out of Stephen Graham Jones; he was one of my teachers at Clarion West, and I admire/envy both his mastery of craft and the entirely ridiculous speed at which he writes. In fact, his story “Chapter Six” was one of my favorites of the year. That being said, I struggled pretty damn hard with this book.

Even if I’d been happy with how this novel resolved (which I really wasn’t), this book would have been a serious contender for Most Challenging Read, purely on how much Jones forces you to pay attention. I don’t quite know how to describe it — his sentences are deceptively simple (which I normally love), but if you’ve skipped over a single word in this book, you will miss things, like, BIG things. This isn’t necessarily a flaw, even if my poor attention-deficit brain struggled to keep up, but when combined with several developments that I didn’t at all care for and a plot that went from complex to convoluted, I took a long, long time to finish this book.

All the Beautiful Sinners couldn’t even come close to being my most frustrating book of the year, though. One classic just blew all the competition right out of the water.

MOST FRUSTRATING BOOK

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Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

Oh. My. GOD.

Interestingly, Rebecca is not my least favorite book of the year, nor was it ever a serious contender. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t occasionally want to set the novel, or possibly just the characters within it, ON FIRE. I can’t speak in specifics yet — although, don’t worry, more details will surely be coming in the Spoiler Section — but I can say that if The Shining Girls has my favorite female protagonist, Rebecca easily has my least favorite female protagonist. The narrator’s excessive insecurity and horrifying inability to prioritize just about gave me an aneurysm. This novel also “wins” for BOOK THAT SORELY TESTED MY FEMINISM.

(If you’re interested, other honorable mentions for that particular award go to The Doll’s House, The Thin Man, Unnatural Death, and The Shambling Guide to New York City.)

BOOK I WISH I COULD FALL INTO FOR AT LEAST A DAY

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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent – Marie Brennan

This one was no contest. Cause, you know. DRAGONS. Of course, there’s nothing especially magical about these particular dragons, as they’re simply another species in this novel — like lizards, if generally larger and vastly more exciting lizards. But if I could sneak into these pages and tag along on an expedition for Dragon Anthropology? Hells to the YES. Sign me up now, please.

SUPER ABILITY I WOULD MOST LIKE TO STEAL

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Tasting Other People’s Emotions in Food – The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Okay, so maybe the greater majority of this book is explaining how this particular ability would suck donkey balls, but . . . I still think it’d be kind of neat. Look, I’m a sucker for food magic, all right? And I would totally use this gift to make myself money because I have no shame about such things. Although how much money remains to be seen because instead of doing something semi-practical, like having my own TV show or something, I’d probably try to become a psychic food detective instead. Huh. How has that not been made into a television show yet?

BEST SUPPORTING CHARACTER

soulless

Akeldama – Soulless

Because he’s awesome. I have absolutely no idea what Akeldama is supposed to look like — I’m hideously bad at remember characters’ physical features — but the entire time I was reading this book, I was picturing Alan Cumming from Plunkett & Macleane.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue the series or not. I didn’t love Soulless the way others have because — funny as this book often is –paranormal romance just doesn’t seem to be my genre. I got bored with all the kissing, and also when it became a little bit more than kissing. But I would happily read more adventures in the life of Akeldama. He basically made the book for me.

Honorable Mentions: Bunter (Clouds of Witness); Granny Good Mae (The Shambling Guide to New York City); Julian (We Have Always Lived in the Castle); Saleh (The Golem and The Jinni); Celia (As You Like It)

BEST VILLAIN

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Mrs. Danvers – Rebecca

Speaking of people who made the book for me . . .

Mrs. Danvers is probably one of my favorite antagonists of all time. She is creepiness personified. Her devotion to Rebecca made her endlessly fascinating to me, and some of the scenes between her and the new Mrs. de Winter were amazing. This novel may have driven me absolute nutty, but I also came away from it with so many ideas for a feminist revision. I didn’t pursue any of these ideas because I didn’t have the time (and also because copyright law often confuses me, and I wasn’t sure if such a thing would even be legal yet, outside of fanfiction), but I still think about them.

And if I were ever to write such a story, you can bet your ass that Mrs. Danvers would be the star of the show.

CHIEF ASSHAT

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Helmer – A Doll’s House

Because he’s the reason I had to keep bonking my head against a desk as I read lines like, “Do you know, Nora, I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life’s blood, and everything, for your sake?”

Also: “You have loved me as a wife ought to love her husband. Only you had not sufficient knowledge to judge of the means you used. But do you suppose you are any the less dear to me, because you don’t understand how to act on your own responsibility? No, no; only lean on me; I will advise you and direct you. I should not be a man if this womanly helpless did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes.”

Also, countless other lines of that nature. Pretty much anytime he opened his mouth, honestly. Helmer is basically terrible.

Honorable Mentions: Max de Winter (Rebecca); Cousin Charles (We Have Always Lived in the Castle)

BEST ROMANCE

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Buttercup and Turquine – The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

Because you have to love a romance based primarily on a mutual respect/understanding of economics. You just have to.

Honorable Mention: Eleanor and Park – Eleanor & Park

MOST UNAPOLOGETIC LOVE LETTER TO THE 80’s

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Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

I created this award a few years ago specifically for Ready Player One, even though I knew it wasn’t very likely I’d get the opportunity to use it again. (Much like I haven’t been able to award Best Use of Sharks to anyone after The Lies of Locke Lamora.) But Eleanor & Park, set in 1986 and covering dozens of 80’s comic book, movie, and music references, certainly qualified. It was also a pretty quick and enjoyable read, except for a few parts where I had to take breaks because Feelings. (My own, I mean. I’d come to a section where I was like, Okay, that’s hitting close to home. Let’s go look at puppies for a while and then come back, okay? Okay.)

FAVORITE MYSTERY

world of trouble

World of Trouble – Ben H. Winters.

I started this trilogy last year with The Last Policeman and quickly fell in love with it. Which is interesting because, in a way, I’ve never found any of the mysteries particularly challenging to solve — but setting these detective stories in an increasingly apocalyptic world is just a stroke of genius that I’m deeply envious of. Palace, too, is one of my very favorite detectives of all time, and watching him start to come apart now that End is Seriously Fucking Nigh . . . it’s just great stuff, all of it. I started this one and just could not stop put it down.

Also won for FASTEST READ and FAVORITE SEQUEL (just beating out Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves in both categories).

MOST DISTURBING BOOK

Perfume

Perfume – Patrick Süskind

I got this book as part of A.C. Wise’s All Hallows Eve Book Exchange, which was a lot of fun to participate in and which I’ll definitely be doing again next year. (Actually, I got two books — this and Under the Skin — because my person was the absolute best.) All in all, I can’t say that I really enjoyed Perfume, despite how well-written it was, but it was hands down the most disturbing thing I read all year. Two scenes in particular just creeped me the hell out: one, our murderer’s first kill, and two, the climactic scene near the end. If you’ve read the book, you probably know which one I’m talking about. Good Lord.

Possibly scarred for life, is all I’m saying here.

FAVORITE ‘SHOULD HAVE READ THIS IN SCHOOL’ BOOK

beloved

Beloved – Toni Morrison

I didn’t think I was going to like this book when I started reading it, even though I had enjoyed Sula years ago in college. I certainly didn’t think it was going to win this award, especially not over Pride and Prejudice, which I had enjoyed a fair amount. Basically every character frustrated me, which made for a pretty slow start.

But the more I read, the more . . . I don’t know. Sorry is too inadequate a word. I was horrified, I was moved, by just everything that Sethe, Denver, and Baby Suggs all went through. They’re all exceptionally strong women. In fact, despite the fact that she kind of drove me crazy in the beginning, Denver ended up being one of my favorite heroines of the year. I really enjoyed the arc of her story, especially the moment she had with Paul D at the end of the book.

Runner Up: Pride & Prejudice

FAVORITE NON-FICTION

poisoners handbook

The Poisoner’s Handbook – Deborah Blum

I’ll admit, I didn’t exactly read a ton of non-fiction this year. (Every year I vow to read more, and every year I fail.) But I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I can’t exactly proclaim to be scientifically inclined, but I do like learning about forensics, modern techniques as well as the history of, and I was really interested to read about how the US government was intentionally poisoning its own citizens in an attempt to force them into adhering to the law of Prohibition.

Occasionally, I found myself frustrated by the novel’s tendency to drift away from the subject at hand, but it was, all in all, a very engaging read. I was particularly fascinated/disturbed by the poisoned pie diner case and the case of the Radium Girls. Those ones stuck with me for a while.

FAVORITE GRAPHIC NOVEL

saga

Saga, Vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughn

Oh, this was hard. This was so, so hard. I started reading Saga this year and fell in love with it . . . but I also fell in love with Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series, and there were a number of Batman graphic novels that I liked too. Actually, to my surprise, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1 was also a serious contender, and I am now all ready to read more of the wacky adventures of Green Arrow and Harley Quinn. (Seriously, these two. So, so funny.)

But Saga just really felt like something different. It’s original and funny and deeply, deeply weird. I like all the characters involved (both good guys and bad guys, awesomely) and if I could actually get it to work, I’d cosplay Izabel in a hot second. Also, the artwork is awesome. If you’d like to read more about the total awesomeness that is this comic, check out io9’s list of 10 Reasons You Should Be Reading Saga.

Runners Up: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon – Matt Fraction; Hawkeye: Little Hits – Matt Fraction; Saga, Vol 2 – Brian K. Vaughn; Saga, Vol. 3: Brian K. Vaughn; Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1 – Tom Taylor; Nightwing, Vol. 3: Traps and Trapezes – Kyle Higgins; Batman, Vol 3: Death of the Family – Scott Snyder, Hyperbole & A Half – Allie Brosh

LEAST FAVORITE BOOK

something more than night

Something More Than Night – Ian Tregillis

I had pretty high hopes for this one — I mean, angel noir? YES, PLEASE. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed with how it turned out, which is why Something More Than Night also takes, appropriately, MOST DISAPPOINTING BOOK as well. I worked through the seriously unexpected amount of physics in this story, and I could’ve somewhat forgiven the noir slang that, try as I might, I never quite bought. (It is, after all, not the easiest vocabulary to work in naturally, as I actually have some firsthand experience in.)

But it was the ending I could absolute not forgive, a twist that I’m not generally a big fan of anyway, and felt especially cheap here.

Honorable Mentions: All the Beautiful Sinners – Stephen Graham Jones; The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett

FAVORITE BOOK

world of trouble

World of Trouble – Ben H. Winters

It’s no big surprise that this novel won: The Last Policeman (or possibly its sequel, Countdown City) would have taken last year’s prize too, if I hadn’t happened to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making in the same calendar year. But I really enjoyed World of Trouble. Other than one small problem I had with the first half of the book, I felt like this novel was the perfect conclusion to the apocalyptic noir trilogy. It was funny and sharp and devastatingly sad, and I’m really interested to see what Winters does next.

Runners Up: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom; The Shining Girls; We Have Always Lived in the Castle

That’s it for the baby spoilers. Go any further, and you’re reading at your own peril.

SPOILERS

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Okay, here we are at the Serious Spoilery Stuff. I have a few awards here and SEVERAL BAZILLION quotes to follow.

BEST DEATH

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All The Shining Girls – The Shining Girls

It feels weird to be nominating the Shining Girls collectively because one of the things I specifically admired about this book was how much time was spent making each victim her own person. It would have been easy to focus on survivor girl Kirby and gloss over all the other women who weren’t so lucky to escape. Instead, Lauren Beukes takes the time to introduce all of the Shining Girls individually so you get a good sense of who they are, where they come from, where they’re going (or, in this case, where they would have gone). As such, their death scenes are considerably more tense because you actually care about these characters — you’re rooting for them to survive, and it’s painful when they don’t.

Serial killer stories are rarely about the victims. The Shining Girls is a welcome exception to that rule.

WORST DEATH

all beautiful sinners

Mr. Rogers – All the Beautiful Sinners

Okay, clearly I just didn’t like this book, no matter how much I wanted to. And actually, I took issue with several of the deaths in this story: Cody, because I’ve always hated that trope where you dress up a good guy in a bad guy’s clothing and have the good guys accidentally kill him; Watts, because she at least deserved a real on-screen death instead of the crappy one she got; Creed’s wife, because it just felt like overkill, etc.

But Mr. Rogers was maybe the worst, partially because he seemed like such an unnecessary and random addition to the story, and partially because his death was such a Darwin Award that it infuriated me. Because this bastard goes out on his own to investigate something that is obviously a trap and refuses to call backup even though they are, like, right there. Like, if I’m remembering this correctly, he is outside a house and they are inside the house; all he had to do was wait two minutes. Possibly less. But he doesn’t and of course dies, and I had absolutely no sympathy for that fucker whatsoever.

Honorable Mentions: Niko (World of Trouble); Grenouille (Perfume)

WORST PLOT CONTRIVANCE

as you like it

Oliver’s Conversion to the Side of Good Via Lion Attack – As You Like It

This one was pretty close — there are some serious double facepalm contrivances in Unnatural Death — but I decided to go with Oliver here, mostly because it all happened off screen (so to speak). Admittedly, the play does mostly take place in a forest, so it’s not like a lion is completely out of the question here, but come on. Evil Oliver (who, mind you, has already tried to arrange his brother’s murder at least once before) is trying to track down Orlando for the Evil Duke. Orlando, meanwhile, is practicing wooing a dude in order to win his lady, only his lady is actually the dude in disguise because Rosalind likes to make everything unnecessarily complicated.

Anyway, somewhere between Scene I and Scene IV, a helpful lion has apparently healed the murderous rift between the two siblings. The lion does this by attacking Oliver, giving Orlando the opportunity to protect his previously homicidal brother and allowing Oliver to think, “Hey, that guy’s pretty cool after all.”

And as a general rule, I’m not sure that wandering lions should be used to reverse the motivations of your chief antagonists. (Duke Frederick is another chief antagonist, and his conversion to the Good is very nearly as silly.) But if it’s going to happen, we should at least get to see the scene in question. Yes, I understand why a lion attack might have been hard to stage in Shakespeare’s day, but I really don’t care. You can’t just have two enemies suddenly appear together like they’re best buddies with only a handful exposition to explain this. Outside of blatant parody, this exchange is just not okay:

One Guy: “Hey, thanks for saving me from that random lion back there. I totes love you, dude.”
Other Guy: “Don’t mention it, bro. I’m really glad we’ve moved past that time you basically convinced your friend to murder me.”

No. This is wrong. You have failed this city, Shakespeare.

Honorable Mentions: Mr. Grimethorpe being hit by a car (Clouds of Witness); Duke Frederick’s Conversion to the Good via Random Priest (As You Like It); Cody and Jim separating at an extremely critical juncture (All the Beautiful Sinners); Mrs. Climpson finds a crucial piece of evidence in church by knocking it over (Unnatural Death); Mrs. Climpson accidentally buzzes herself into the murderer’s apartment (Unnatural Death)

WORST HEART KNOWLEDGE

Perfume

Antoine Richis realizes (somehow) that the serial killer is not a “destructive personality,” but a collector of beautiful things who sees each woman he murders as part of some greater whole, and therefore has not left the city, as everyone else believes, but has in fact stayed behind to collect exactly one more thing from his last victim, Richis’s own daughter. – Perfume

This actually drives me less nuts than you might expect, probably because Richis’s heart knowledge doesn’t end up doing a damn thing to help save Laure, but it all just feels so unnecessary and silly. Why, exactly, do we need Richis to come to this impossible conclusion anyway? Why can’t he just be paranoid? He’s still scared for his daughter — we all get that. We don’t really need him to have some BS psychological bond with the serial killer, do we? I think not.

LEAST PAYOFF

clouds of witness

The murdered man actually committed suicide – Clouds of Witness

In all honesty, I don’t remember the ending of this book as well now. (It’s been, like, months since I read it. WHOLE MONTHS, I tell you.) But I do know that I was really enjoying this novel until we discovered that Cathcart wasn’t murdered after all, that he actually killed himself. It’s not entirely cheap — I do believe there is a small bit of foreshadow for the twist — but all in all, it just never really worked for me. If I remember correctly, Cathcart kills himself primarily due to a woman who leaves him (and accompanying financial difficulties), and the woman is only in the novel for a very brief time near the end, which made the whole reveal feel a little sudden and silly. I still had a great time reading this book — Wimsey is such a fun character, as well as Bunter — but the ending was definitely a letdown.

BOOK THAT MADE ME CRY LIKE A BABY

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World of Trouble – Ben H. Winters

Okay, technically, this isn’t true. No book made me cry like a baby this year. (No books have made me cry in a couple of years, actually, which is really kind of surprising, since tears are not exactly an infrequent occurrence around here. I cried last week when I realized I forgot to turn the damn ricer cooker on, for Christ’s sake.) But in this case, I think it’s just because I’d been steeling myself against tears for about a year, knowing that I was about to read a book set in the Last Days before an asteroid pretty much wiped out the human race. And while there were no tears, I definitely did feel a little heartsick after finishing the novel.

What surprised me, though, was that it wasn’t the last page that made me so heartsick but many pages before, when we find out that Niko has been murdered just before Henry could find her. I’m not sure why, but I honestly thought that Henry would get to talk to his sister at least once before the world’s end, that they’d at least have each other through it, if nothing else. That Niko died alone in the woods, and that Henry had left his police family behind, knowing he’d never see them again, just so he could die with her, only to get there too late . . . ugh. I still find that heartbreaking, dammit.

Honorable Mention: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender

MOST ANNOYING ROMANCE

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Mrs. de Winter and Max – Rebecca

This book. THIS BOOK. Okay. I’m sure I’ll be ranting about this in my Movie Superlatives too (because it’s almost as bad there), but this is one of the most horrifying romances I’ve ever read. First, our new Mrs. de Winter marries this jerk, who she’s desperately in love with, even though he pretty much always treats her like crap, and then, when she finds out that he straight up murdered his first wife, she’s just like, “Wait, that means he didn’t love her! He never loved Rebecca! He loves ME!”

No. NO. Women, this is unacceptable. It’s understandable that you want your husband to feel the same way about you as you feel about him; I even understand not wanting him to be hung up on his dead wife. But ladies, if your guy’s like, “I killed my last wife because she was an intolerable bitch,” the only proper response, is “Seeya” as you run screaming out the front door.

There were plenty of romances I didn’t like this year, but none horrified me quite so much as this one.

Honorable Mentions: Roen & Jill (The Lives of Tao); Zoe & Arthur (The Shambling Guide to New York City); Peter & Simone (Moon Over Soho); Oliver & Celia (As You Like It)

WORST PRIORITIES

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See above, basically. Your entire self-worth, not to mention your life, should really not center around a man’s feelings for another woman. Of course, Rebecca really was a terrible person, but that doesn’t really excuse Max from killing her, does it? And even if it did, you only have Max’s word that Rebecca is as awful as he says. What happens when Max grows tired of living with you as well?

Some self-preservation skills, lady. That’s all I’m asking for here.

Runners Up: Letting Hallelujah remain publicly in suspicion while trying to capture Marv (Unnatural Death);  Handjob in Cellar (Soulless)

FAVORITE NOVEL QUOTE

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“Here is how I know that she’s not dead: because she’s never dead.” – World of Trouble

Partially because I understand the reasoning, flawed as it is, and partially because it’s wrong. You get to thinking, sometimes, that certain bits of life will never change: this couple will make up because they always make up, no matter how bad the fight gets; this person won’t die because he always pulls through, no matter how terrible the sickness becomes. But things do change and couples do call it quits and illnesses do win and people do die. There’s a flip side to that too, of course, when the terrible things you’ve come to accept as normal get better against all odds and reason, but the principle remains: all the things you’ve come to take for granted will eventually fundamentally change on you.

The quote is a simple line, but it’s a lovely line and, in the end, a tragic one, all at the same time.

The Many, Many Honorable Mentions:

“She is idly picking up twigs and breaking them into smaller and smaller pieces until they won’t break anymore. Nothing is infinitely reducible. You can split an atom but you can’t vaporize it. Stuff sticks around. It clings to you, even when it’s broken. Like Humpty Dumpty. At some point you have to pick up the pieces. Or walk away. Don’t look back. Fuck the king’s horses.” – The Shining Girls

“You have to do the cutting yourself, to let out the pain inside. Getting someone else to slice you up is cheating.” – The Shining Girls

“The thing about gravity is that it wins every single time.” – The Shining Girls

“No one said it would be pretty, yanking despair out of a woman.” – The Shining Girls

“And she climbs on top of him and it hurts, which she expected, and it’s nice, which she’d hoped, but it’s not world-changing and afterwards they kiss a lot and smoke the rest of the cigarette, and she coughs and says, ‘That wasn’t how I thought it would be.’
Neither is being murdered.” – The Shining Girls

“What’s the n-never-fail universal apology?”
“‘I was badly misinformed, I deeply regret the error, go fuck yourself with this bag of money.” – The Republic of Thieves

“Locke drew in a rasping breath to spew some more damn fool craziness. Jean, with the reflexes that kept him alive when blades were drawn, clamped a hand over Locke’s mouth before he could speak and pushed his head back down against his pillow. “I can’t agree to anything on Locke’s behalf, but I want us to hear your proposal. Tell us what the job is.”
‘It’s political,” said Patience.
“Mmmmmph mmph,” said Locke, struggling in vain against Jean’s arm. “Mmmph fckhnnng fmmmmph!”
“He wants to hear more,” said Jean. “He says he’s very excited to hear the whole thing.” – The Republic of Thieves

“You were talking to her before, right?”
“Yeah. It was going well. Now it’s all strange.”
“Have you considered extreme, desperate measures like talking to her again?” – The Republic of Thieves

“The Manda Lewises of the world will say that is not love, at least not of a romantic kind. I will grant that it certainly is not the sort one finds in plays and sensational novels – but that sort always seems to be causing trouble for everyone involved, and the occasional innocent bystander.” – A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

“But coming to terms with one’s sorrow is one thing; sharing it with strangers is quite another.” – A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

“Some people hold that breakfast is the best meal of the day. Others, less robust, hold that it is the worst, and that, of all breakfasts in the week, Sunday-morning breakfast is incomparably the worst.” – Clouds of Witness

“The Duchess of Denver was pouring out coffee. This was one of her uncomfortable habits. Persons arriving late for breakfast were thereby made painfully aware of their sloth.” – Clouds of Witness

“The Colonel was both embarrassed and angry – embarrassed because, ‘pon my soul, it was difficult to know what to talk about in a house where your host had been arrested for murder; angry in a dim way, like an injured animal, because unpleasant things like this had no business to break in on the shooting season.” – Clouds of Witness

“Here’s a deep, damp ditch on the other side, which I shall now proceed to fall into.” – Clouds of Witness

“Mr. Parker was not the kind of man to be deterred by the difficulty of buying ladies’ underwear in a foreign language; he was not very imaginative.” – Clouds of Witness

“Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father.” – Pride & Prejudice

“My good opinion once lost is lost forever.” Pride & Prejudice

“If I’d have ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Pride & Prejudice

“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
“I love you, Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.” – Eleanor & Park

“Looks like somebody’s got jungle fever.”
“That’s not even the right kind of racist.” – Eleanor & Park

“You act like there are two kinds of girls,” she said. “The smart ones and the ones that boys like.” – Eleanor & Park

“Maybe Park had paralyzed her with his ninja magic, his Vulcan handhold, and now he was going to eat her.
That would be awesome.” – Eleanor & Park

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” she said.
He hung on to his straps and shrugged. “Yesterday happens.” – Eleanor & Park

“Don’t bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It’s disturbing and needy and never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with big kisses.” – Eleanor & Park

“You can be Han Solo,” he says, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.” – Eleanor & Park

“Several of the girls at the party had had sex, something which sounded appealing but only if it could happen with blindfolds in a time warp plus amnesia” – The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

“Mom’s smiles were so full of feeling that people leaned back a little when she greeted them. It was hard to know just how much was being offered.” – The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

“YOU’RE IN MY MOUTH, I said. GET OUT OF MY MOUTH.” – The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

“Alexia figured, delightedly, that this meant he did, in fact, tend to traipse around his private apartments in the altogether. Marriage was becoming more and more of an attractive prospect.” – Soulless

“He was so very large and so very gruff that he rather terrified her, but he always behaved correctly in public, and there was a lot to be said for a man who sported such well-tailored jackets — even if he did change into a ferocious beast once a month.” – Soulless

“Hello, princess,” said Lord Maccon to the vampire. “Got yourself into quite a pickle this time, didn’t you?”
Lord Akeldama looked him up and down. “My sweet young naked boy, you are hardly one to talk. Not that I mind, of course.” – Soulless

“With a resigned shrug, she screamed and collapsed into a faint. She stayed resolutely fainted, despite the liberal application of smelling salts, which made her eyes water most tremendously, a cramp in the back of one knee, and the fact that her new ball gown was getting most awfully wrinkled.” – Soulless

“Mrs. Loontwill did what any well-prepared mother would do upon finding her unmarried daughter in the arms of a gentleman werewolf: she had very decorous, and extremely loud, hysterics.” – Soulless

“All the London ton acknowledged Scotland as a barbaric place. The packs there cared very little for the social niceties of daytime folk. Highland werewolves had a reputation for doing atrocious and highly unwarranted things, like wearing smoking jackets to the dinner table. Lyall shivered at the delicious horror of the very idea.” – Soulless

“Fate intervened. Some of us, that day, she led inexorably through the gates of death. Some of us, innocent and unsuspecting, took, unwillingly, that one last step to oblivion. Some of us took very little sugar.” – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

“You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine, is it still in use? You are wondering, has it been cleaned? You may very well ask, was it thoroughly washed?” – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

“I’m going to put death in all their food and watch them die.” –We Have Always Lived in the Castle

“I would have to find something else to bury here and I wished it could be Charles.” – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

“I wondered about going down to the creek, but I had no reason to suppose that the creek would even be there, since I never visited it on Tuesday mornings.” – We Have Always Lived in the Castle

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” – Rebecca

“If you think I’m one of those people who try to be funny at breakfast, you’re wrong. I’m invariably ill-tempered in the early morning.” –Rebecca

“Perhaps I haunted her as she haunted me.” – Rebecca

“You’ll like her, I think. She’s very direct, believes in speaking he mind. No humbug at all. If she doesn’t like you, she’ll tell you so, to your face.”
I found this hardly comforting, and wondered if there was not some virtue in the quality of insincerity.” – Rebecca

“I smile. I like this Detective Russel. I’m not wild about all the exclamation points, but I like her.” – World of Trouble

“I walk the blood.” – World of Trouble

“The first time we met he shot me in the head with an electric staple gun, but our relationship has evolved in the subsequent months.” – World of Trouble

“If you’ve gone mad, you’re useless, and I’ll have to eat you.” – World of Trouble

“You never really think of Amish people as being people, they’re this weird otherworldly category and you lump them all together in your mind like penguins. And now here they are, these specific human people with their specific human faces.” – World of Trouble

“The jackhammer is an ‘old dog,’ Atlee warned, but he also assured me it worked with some coaxing. He did not say that the best coaxing involves shouting “fuck me sideways” when it stalls, but I trust Cortez knows what he’s doing, digging away in there.” – World of Trouble

“I don’t like to think they died for a reason, because that makes it sound like it’s okay. As if it’s good that it happened, because it ordered my life. It wasn’t good. It was bad.” – World of Trouble

“I can’t solve the crime unless I know everything and the world can’t end with the crime unsolved, that’s all there is to it, so I tighten my grip on her shoulders and demand that she remember.”  – World of Trouble

“I hold Ruthie’s hand and she holds my hand, we sit like that, giving each other strength, like strangers on a crashing plane.” – World Trouble

“Like I said, desperately generous of you, but I’m not what you’d call the ruling type. Also, if memory serves, your northern provinces are in open revolt, your economy’s just gone into triple-dip recession and the dragon burned down all the frog-apple trees, whose fruit is your country’s only export and source of hard currency. It’s terribly feeble of me, I know, but I prefer my rewards just a bit less challenging.” – The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

“The boy had never met a wizard but he knew all about them. Accordingly he smiled politely and walked a little bit faster.” – The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

“Finally; Uncle had bought the horrible thing as a present for Benny’s birthday. It was the most likely explanation, and if true, it had been a sweet thought, but on balance, he’d have preferred socks. You can’t have too many socks, and a sock, if used responsibly, is unlikely to strand you in an existential no-man’s-land with no hope of escape.” – The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

“Which meant I spent my spare time learning magic, studying dead languages, and reading books like Essays on the Metaphysical by John “never saw a polysyllabic word he didn’t like” Cartwright.” – Moon Over Soho

“I’d been too intent on the room to hear her coming up the stairs. Leslie said that the capacity not to notice a traditional Dutch folk-dancing band walk up behind you was not a survival characteristic in the complex fast-paced world of the modern policing environment. I’d like to point out that I was trying to give directions to a slightly deaf tourist at the time and anyway it was a Swedish dance troupe.” – Moon Over Soho

“I’m fairly certain they were supposed to offer me psychological counseling at that point, but they didn’t. Which was a pity, because I would have rather liked it.” – Moon Over Soho

“For a terrifying moment I thought he was going to hug me, but fortunately we both remembered we were English just in time. Still, it was a close call.” – Moon Over Soho

“That’s where you’re wrong, puppy. It’s common knowledge that I’m your true love.”
“According to whom?” Liam exclaimed. “The evil fairy who tried to kill us all? She’s the one who said ‘true love’s kiss’ would break the spell. But she also turned into a monster and tried to eat me. We’re supposed to take her word for it?” – The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

“It’s a bit mysterious,” Liam said. “Gustav, do you have any thoughts?”
“You smell like melon,” said Gustav.
“Thank you,” said Liam. “That was very constructive.” – The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

“She’s not dead, dunderhead,” the dwarf said. “She’s under a witch’s spell.”
“Then why’d you put her in a coffin?” Duncan asked. “That’s pretty final, don’t you think?” – The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

“Duncan, what are you?”
“Human!” Duncan cried, trembling with excitement.
“More specific,” Liam said, still dramatically.
“A five-foot-two human!”
“I’m going for hero here,” Liam hinted under his breath. – The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

“I’m Liam of Erinthia. I’m here to rescue you,” he announced triumphantly. He then added, with less enthusiasm, “And you are not Cinderella. You are a tree branch wrapped in a sheet.” – The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

“Eventually the Rabbi decided to reconcile himself to the situation, defeated by necessity and the lure of freshly ironed trousers.” – The Golem & The Jinni

“Were those real people?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Would my answer change your understanding of them?”
“I’m not sure. It’s just that they seem too simple to be real. As soon as a desire arose, they acted on it. And not small things, like ‘I need a new hat’ or ‘I want to buy a loaf of bread.’ Large things like Adam and Eve and the apple. Or Cain killing Abel.” She frowned. “I know I haven’t lived very long, but this seems unusual.” – The Golem & The Jinni

“Would Ice Cream Saleh fall down in the street today, and foam at the mouth? They were always disappointed when he did not, though the ice cream was a consolation.” – The Golem & The Jinni

“He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.” – Beloved

“People who die bad don’t stay in the ground.” – Beloved

“He licked his lips. “Well, if you want my opinion –”
“I don’t,” she said. ‘I have my own.” – Beloved

“Clever, but schoolteacher beat him anyway to show him that definitions belonged to the definers – not the defined.” – Beloved

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” – Beloved

“It’s hard for a young girl living in a haunted house.” – Beloved

“Calls will be answered in the order in which we feel like. Your expected wait time is 42 minutes. Your expected blood pressure is 210/130. You may hear clicks followed by silence. You may hear “Whole Lotta Love” done entirely in strings. You may hear yourself say regrettable things, which may be monitored and/or recorded.” – My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places

“You couldn’t be too cautious. For although the migrant workers were in fact not responsible for the actual murder, they could have been responsible for it on principle, and so it was better to be on one’s guard.” – Perfume

“He didn’t want to be an inventor. He was very suspicious of inventors, for they always meant that some rule would have to be broken.” – Perfume

Nora: You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me. – The Doll’s House

Nora: What do you consider my most sacred duties?
Helmer: Do I need to tell you that? Are they not your duties to your husband and your children?
Nora: I have other duties just as sacred.
Helmer: That you have not. What duties could those be?
Nora: Duties to myself.
Helmer: Before all else, you are a wife and mother.
Nora: I don’t believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are – or, at all events, that I must try to and become one. – The Doll’s House

Helmer: I would gladly work night and day for you. Nora — bear sorrow and want for your sake. But no man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves.
Nora: It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done. – The Doll’s House

Mrs. Linde: One must live, Doctor Rank.
Doctor Rank: Yes, the general opinion seems to be that it is necessary. – The Doll’s House

Nora: It is sad that all these nice things should take their revenge on our bones. – The Doll’s House

Duke Frederick: Let it suffice thee that I trust thee not.
Rosalind: Yet your mistrust cannot make me a traitor. – As You Like It

Jacques: Last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion; sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. – As You Like It

Touchstone: This is the very false gallop of verses: why do you infect yourself with them?
Rosalind: Peace, you dull fool! I found them on a tree.
Touchstone: Truly, the tree yields bad fruit. – As You Like It

Rosalind: Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. – As You Like It

I think that’s quite enough for today. Hopefully, I’ll have your 2014 Movie Superlative up very soon.

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